The week off for the Detroit Lions was well needed. It was probably just as well needed for Lions fans as it was for the team itself. I know that for me, it gave me a lot of time to think about this team. I’ve come away with a different feeling than I went into it with. The Detroit Pistons are actually a big reason why I’ve changed my viewpoint.
The Pistons? Yes, the Pistons. Let me explain. I love football, but basketball was my first love. So, naturally, I keep up with the Pistons as much as I do the Lions. I was listening to one of my favorite Pistons podcasts—The Bun and Cardigan Show—over the bye week and co-host of the show James Edwards III had some thoughts on the Pistons’ first two preseason games that really put my thoughts on the Lions in a different perspective.
Edwards is not a fan of the team he covers. He’s able to look at the Pistons rebuild in a way that most fans of the team are incapable of. Fans are super pumped about new additions and the growth of players, and many believe this team could at least contend for a spot in the play-in tournament. After the Pistons did not look good in the first two preseason games, doom and gloom immediately set in.
When you take that fandom away—believe me, I know it’s hard to do—you can see the Pistons for what they really are: A very young team that is learning to come together in the league. Yes, they have future star players, but they are not ready yet.
I think we did the same thing with the Lions. It was a really big offseason full of big things. The Lions had a draft that was nationally praised, they were on a really fun season of “Hard Knocks,” the league announced that the NFL Draft would come to Detroit in 2024, and the national sports media seemed to all buy into the Lions at the same time. How could you have possibly not bought into the idea that this team was on a one-way street to the playoffs or at least a team that could win eight or nine games? I know I bought in. I picked the team to go 10-7 and make the playoffs.
It seemed with all that was going on, I never really sat down and really took a hard look at what the Lions were in 2021 and how long the road can really be because of that. When the Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn era began, so did the tear down of the Detroit Lions. I’m not trying to blame them for the Lions current woes, but it's true. By the time their era died, so had the Lions as we had known them for nearly a decade.
Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes inherited next to nothing when they took on the Lions. They took over a team with no quarterback, no receiving corps and no defense. Take this into account, there are seven players on the current Lions team that were on the 2020 Lions defense. There are 11 offensive players on currently with the team that were with that 2020 team as well. That’s 18 players. Throw in punter Jack Fox and that’s a total of 19 of 53 players that remain from the Patricia/Quinn era. That’s essentially all that Campbell and Holmes inherited. Everyone else is new from last year or new this year. By the way, it doesn’t help matters that six of those 19 players are currently injured. And a lot of those players who have stuck around (Logan Stenberg, Julian Okwara, Amani Oruwariye) aren’t exactly providing stellar play. On top of all of that, the Lions are the youngest team in the league. Youth = inexperienced and mistake prone.
It really makes you wonder why anyone thought the Lions would take such a big jump in year two. It’s clear that the Lions are farther behind in the rebuild than what was initially thought or hoped.
That’s why it’s fair to wonder if many of us have been overreacting this whole time. Overreacting to the idea that the Lions were ready to take the next step or overreacting when they don’t. I get the idea of being upset. It’s totally okay to be upset that the Lions lost 29-0 to the Patriots in their last game. I’ll never blame anyone for that. But I will say that many of us, myself included, jumped to the idea that someone needs to get fired way too fast.
Are the Lions where we want them to be? No. Are they getting better? Yes. The offense is proof of that. The Lions went from one of the worst in the league to one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. We need to at least give the team a chance to do the same on the defensive side of the ball. There’s a lot of work to be done. You can now really see why the Lions signed Campbell and Holmes to such long contracts. It’s because this isn’t an overnight thing.
I won’t blame anyone for how they react to the rest of the Lions 2022 season. In know that for myself, I will be taking the James Edwards III approach of taking a step back, and trying to be a little more objective and patient with this franchise.